Thanks for your nuanced thoughts.
- Complex writing in academia. This blog is exactly about solving that problem: writing about highly technical ideas and findings (from neuroscience) in accessible language. This whole piece builds up, slowly, to that compound noun “prediction error system”. Though a mouthful, it is precise. Which is the point of the piece: imprecision in calling it a “reward” chemical causes many misunderstandings.
- Dopamine’s role as a prediction error is precisely what guides us to know what is useful and what isn’t. Because what these changing amounts of dopamine do is tell specific connections between neurons whether to get stronger or weaker. And by changing the strength of these connections, dopamine changes whether one is more or less likely to repeat an action – the action that led to the outcome which caused the dopamine response in the first place. There’s an entire article waiting to be written on exactly how that works!
- Fads: as the links made clear, I was talking about the media, not science.